A pasta starter

This is so simple, it’s hardly worth noting, but it encompasses everything to do with cooking pasta: simple flavours, blends, add-ons, options, opinions, care, and colour. Just like the society we live in.

This recipe is dedicated to all those hoons who avoid the kitchen with cries of ‘But I can only cook an egg!’ Paah, I say to that, paaah. It is also dedicated to all those slobs who were given a copy of this book for Christmas or birthday or just as a hint to get off their bottoms and get into the kitchen.

To call this the simplest pasta dish in the world might sound patronising, but for those of you who, like me not so long ago, don’t have a clue what to do with pasta, it’s worth taking a deep breath and plunging in. And, like all good cooking, it starts with the shopping. Pick up a packet of dried pasta from the supermarket shelves (pick a shape you might have liked when you were six years old) and get hold of a few ripe tomatoes, a bunch of basil and a small bunch of tarragon.

The best parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano, and I won’t hear any debate on that matter. But like all the good things in life, it’s not cheap. Next down the scale comes Grana Padano, also Italian. Australian parmesan, made by Kraft, is very good, a little salty for me, and just misses as a perfectly balanced cheese. It’s like comparing an Australian sweet wine with one of the wonders of France. If you’ve never had the real thing, you’ll be forever content. Don’t ever buy grated parmesan. That’s like buying peas already podded.

a few ripe tomatoes

virgin olive oil

1 bunch of basil

small bunch of tarragon


black pepper

1 packet dried pasta (allow 30 g per person)


chives, basil or parsley, chopped


Peel the tomatoes with a sharp knife, chop them into reasonably chunky pieces and mix them in a bowl with some nicely flavoured virgin olive oil, the basil leaves, tarragon leaves, a little salt and some black pepper.


Leave for a half an hour or so, stirring occasionally to- release the tomato juices.


Now, read the guidelines on the pasta packet, and get cooking. Cook the pasta by the rules – but before the clock
ticks over to the time noted on the packet, remove some pasta with a fork and taste it. How’s it going? When it’s done, drain, and toss the pasta in the tomato mix.


Turn the pepper mill over the lot, grate some parmesan cheese over the top, and mix about with a wooden spoon.


Sprinkle some chopped chives, basil, parsley or whatever on top to cover up any inadequacies. See, that wasn’t tough, was it?
There is no point crawling under the house for your best bottle of red. Go to a good wine merchant and see what red they might have on special for just under $10.